Iowa Senate considers legalizing Internet poker - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Senate considers legalizing Internet poker

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A bill that would legalize online poker in Iowa is making its way through the state Senate this week.

Some legislators say regulating the now un-regulated Internet poker industry could mean revenue for the state.

The possibility, however, has others concerned.

Connie Sprimont is a problem gambling counselor at Substance Abuse Services Center in Dubuque.

"There are many people that can gamble responsibly. There are people that can gamble and treat it as the form of entertainment that it should be. However, there are many people that cannot," she said.

Sprimont said she worries legalizing online poker could make gambling more accessible for people with an addiction.

"I'm just worried that, you know, when they go home and they have the Internet right there, they're not going to be able to control that addiction," Sprimont said. "Addiction is a disease. And we're going to bring that in their home?"

Proponents, including Iowa Gaming Association president and CEO Wes Ehrecke, argue people can already play unregulated poker online.

"There really is no policy for it. All of the operators that are currently providing online poker are not from the US," Ehrecke said. "They're operating from places from throughout the world, and there is no regulations or standards or assurances of perhaps getting paid."

He said legalizing online poker could make it taxable and more of a safe bet.

"It could be offered by the casinos and regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, that would then put forth the rules, the standards and uphold the integrity that people have come to expect with games that are offered within the casinos," Ehrecke said.

A program called the Iowa Statewide and Lifetime Self-Exclusion began in 2004 to help problem gamblers.

"It's basically a contract that you would write up between yourself, the casino and the state of Iowa, and you basically write it up saying, 'If I come into your place and gamble, you can arrest me for trespassing,'" Sprimont said.

The proposed legislation for legalizing Internet poker in Iowa would also ban from signing up for an online account people who had signed the self-exclusion ban.

The bill is still in the Senate this week and could undergo changes before it goes any farther.

The current proposal would allow people 21-years-old and older to play online poker anywhere within Iowa's borders, as long as they register with the regulated poker site.

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